Decadence: Arizona’s Biggest New Year’s Eve Experience
December 30th and 31st, 2018 by Michael Bayne
For decades, Relentless Beats has been the leading dance music and EDM promoter in the state of Arizona. Their shows, concerts, and festival series have become staples to the social calendars of any Arizonian that call themselves EDM fans. RB’s signature New Year’s Eve event, Decadence, turned 5 this year; an impressive feat for any festival series in today’s hypercompetitive live music industry.
Decadence has reached this milestone thanks to the hard work of the team at Relentless Beats and their continued efforts to attract the biggest and the brightest in today’s EDM music scene. Although various dark circles of the internet will find plenty of negative things to say about Relentless Beats’ productions, we’ll get to that in a moment, one must give credit where credit is due and it’s hard to build a case that RB doesn’t deserve accolades for bringing the likes of Above & Beyond, Eric Prydz, Gryffin, Marshmello, Morgan Page, Porter Robinson, Skrillex, among countless of other established artists and rising stars to Arizona’s Valley of the Sun during one of the busiest nights of the year for music industry titans.
Decadence Arizona itself has been a saving grace for the masses of youth that otherwise would be left with few alternatives for a large-scale music event to attend for the NYE holiday, apart from traveling out of state to L.A. or Vegas.
I’ve personally attended Decadence for NYE for 4 of the last 5 years and each year brings thrilling new experiences that have become fond memories. For all the good things one could say about Relentless Beats and Decadence, there are of course many critics that will find fault with the location that hosts the majority of their large-scale festival style events, Rawhide. Officially dubbed “Rawhide Western Town & Events Center”, it is a sprawling events space located on the Gila River Indian Reservation just south of the Phoenix enclave of Ahwatukee and west of the suburb of Chandler.
Many complaints center around the accessibility, or severe lack thereof, of Rawhide compared with nightlife hotspots in Old Town Scottsdale, Downtown Phoenix, or Tempe’s Mill Avenue District. However, I find that taking the time to learn the layout and familiarizing myself with anticipated road closures and restrictions beforehand ensures a smooth experience gaining access to the venue.
Decadence this year was slammed with myriad complaints regarding the stage set up. The team at RB tried something new and designed a layout that would, in theory, expand the capacity of the event by splitting the crowd into 3 stages with mineral-themed names.
The Decadence Experience
The “Sapphire Ballroom” inside of the main warehouse at Rawhide served as a secondary stage this year, but it became my personal favorite thanks to the schedule of artists playing and it’s easy access points. The “Ruby Courtyard” was a noble idea; an open-air space lined with food/drink stands and vendors selling wares while local artists were given an opportunity to showcase their talents. Sadly, the stage was poorly attended thanks to the rainy weather and the subsequent muddy mess.
Speaking of which; if you are following along with the stage layout map in the photo above, you will notice a thin walkway that connects the Ruby Courtyard area with the “Diamond Atrium”. This walkway rapidly became an unnavigable disaster of mud, puddles of water, and hoards of fellow concert attendees attempting to avoid the mess.
This bottleneck only worsened as one made their way towards the Diamond Atrium stage, which was billed as the signature stage and featured the sets of the biggest artists. To my knowledge, this setup was a new idea and one that failed in spectacular fashion. The stage was completely blocked off from entering from the side thanks to the massively-in-the-way VIP deck that was meant to provide an elevated experience for those willing to pay the price.
Walking around the VIP deck meant that there was just 1 (!!!!) entry and exit point for the stage. For those hoping to enter the “Atrium” and make their ways towards the front where the stage was located, it meant pushing through a packed throng of people. The entry/exit point quickly devolved into a chaotic mosh-pit like scene with people pushing and shoving in an attempt to move into the crowd.
The mud again was a factor here, as half the ground covering was cement while the other half was dirt/mud. Everyone attempted to crowd onto the cement portion, with mixed results. If there was a Fire Code of any sorts, it was clear that the crowd exceeded the capacity by several hundred at this stage.
I personally couldn’t wait to flee the dreaded Diamond Atrium stage after about 10 minutes of Marshmello’s set and spent the remainder of my evening comfortably inside the Sapphire Ballroom, jamming out to Green Velvet’s tribal beats. Overall, Relentless Beats tried something new and hopefully learned from this mistake.
Many online swore they would never attend another RB event again, an almost laughable proclamation considering their prolific offering of events of all sizes in many different locations.
Like any music event, the experience is what you make of it and you get out of it what you put into it. My experience was full of laughs, grooves, meeting new people, connecting with old friends, and dancing the night away while celebrating a new year and a fresh start.